SAVONBURG — Children in Savonburg are keeping busy this summer at the local public library. A special library program was presented Tuesday by singer and songwriter Alan Cunningham.
Cunningham attended Ottawa University to play football with no clear plan on what he would major in. When he chose music as his major he said his teammates made fun of him for picking a “sissy major.” Meanwhile, his music friends thought he was “dumb” to play football.
Fortunately, he ignored both sides.
“If you find out you’re really good at something don’t let anyone tell you not to do it,” Cunningham advised.
During college Cunningham began to write music, mostly about love and romance. He admits he was trying to dazzle girls with his talent.
The love songs, however, didn’t come in handy when he was asked to play at an Amish school near Garnett. The upcoming gig prompted him to write a children’s song about his dog. It was a hit and became the first of his many children’s songs.
His romantic lyrics did eventually land him a girlfriend, Phyllis, and they are now married with children. Phyllis teaches math and Cunningham teaches music at Eugene Field and Eisenhower elementary schools.
“She was a banker but I talked her into teaching so we could both have the summers off with the kids,” he said.
Now, Cunningham has two children’s CDs and has done shows for the last 18 years. Phyllis travels with him and critiques his new material. She is not a fan of “The Bumble Bee Song.”
“She told me it was the dumbest song I ever wrote, but kids love it,” he said.
Cunningham said he gets a lot of inspiration from his students and fellow teachers in Ottawa and from his children when they were young. This year’s summer reading program theme is “Every Hero has a Story.” Cunningham said the librarian at his school, Nancy, is disabled and recently became very ill. His colleagues asked him to write a song about her.
“I got to thinking and I realized there is a hero in all of us,” he said before he played the song.
Throughout the afternoon show he had children participate by singing along and even burping into a microphone to set the “right tone” for a song.
The library program was made possible by a grant from the Southeast Kansas Library Systems.
THE LIBRARY programs are just part of the summer opportunities for youth in Savonburg. The community hall serves free U.S. Department of Agriculture meals from noon to 1 p.m., Tuesday through Saturdays, for youth ranging 1 to 18. This is the first year the community has hosted the food program.
Librarian Kathy Hale and food site director said the site is not considered a full service kitchen so they serve sack lunches. Children must eat the meals on site but they are allowed to swap foods at a “share table.”
The program isn’t taking off as well as expected, Hale said. On a typical day four or five children eat a meal. Tuesday was one of the highest days so far, with 10 kids.
“The numbers tend to be higher on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays because we have library programs afterward,” Hale said.
It is undetermined if the food program will continue next year.
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